This world of ours and “our lives” (such a term jumps out at me now - the notion that we somehow ‘own’ a life, rather than simply being expressions OF life!) are steeped in duality. And we all too willingly play along. What is in fact an indivisible whole is deconstructed by the mind into constituent parts, which we believe exist in isolation and independently of the whole. In fact, the mind doesn’t even like to acknowledge the whole at all - most people genuinely believe that life consists of separate ‘things’, one after the other, each seemingly independent and barely related. We divide reality into ‘good’ and ‘bad’, ‘light’ and ‘dark’, ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ and with those labels come judgements: one polarity is deemed desirable and the other is to be rejected, denied or repressed.
And so we traverse the uneven, bumpy path of duality. We’re locked into a certain pattern and mode of relating to the universe and it’s very hard to step out of it. The mind just digs this stuff - it thrives on reductionism, in labelling, categorising, conceptualising; in cutting reality down into bitesize chunks, designating each chunk as either good or bad, positive or negative, to be sought after or avoided.
Duality can be visualised as a straight line; one end is labelled positive (or ‘light’ or ‘good’) and the other is negative (or ‘dark’ or ‘bad’).
(Excuse my crude doodling!!)
And between the two poles we chug, ever moving to the left or right.
Because we perceive one pole as good and the other as bad, we remain locked in the cycle of attachment and aversion that the Buddhists highlight as being the sticky super-adhesive that keeps us bound to samsara, or the world of suffering. No matter how ‘good’ we think we’re being, no matter how much we aspire to the ‘light’, the very concept of light automatically creates not-light, or darkness. When we excessively attach ourselves to the one polarity, we automatically strengthen the other. Life is a never-ending cycle of balance, as symbolised in the great symbol of Taoism, which depicts the perfect balance of yin and yang.
It’s a symbol that’s really worth meditating upon and reflecting. It encompasses perfect balance, harmony and unity. This is not achieved by deciding that yang is better and more desirable than yin or vice versa and clinging to what the mind deems is best. It is a perfect dance, a symmetry, an absolute acceptance and recognition of the whole, rather than a clinging to its constituent parts, which are actually inextricably interconnected anyway, despite the appearance to the outward senses of separation.
As long as we’re locked into the mode of duality we’re going to suffer: there’s going to be ‘good’ and ‘bad’, pain will always follow pleasure and any ‘positive’ feeling or experience will inevitably be accompanied by a ‘negative’. There will be ‘good people’ and ‘bad people’, ‘nice weather’ and ‘nasty weather’, ‘happy times’ and ‘sad times’. This is simply the nature of the material world as we experience it. It is only really a problem - and creates suffering - when we are locked into duality, when we believe that things ‘should’ be a certain way and ‘shouldn’t’ be as they are.
The key to transcending this mindset and finding peace amid a seemingly imperfect world is triangulation. You no longer stay stuck on the straight line of duality, being swept toward either positive or negative and perhaps desperately trying to paddle in the ‘right direction’. (Sorry for all the inverted commas, but they are kind of necessary to demonstrate my point!) What happens is you create a third point, above and midway between the positive and negative poles. With this third point, you can join the lines and what you have is a triangle. The third point is the zero point (another discussion entirely) and which I call the point of LOVE. It bridges the poles of duality and creates a whole new mode of being. It is a balancing point. There’s no longer ‘good’ and ‘bad’ existing in isolation, but a whole. This is a far more accurate representation of reality than the old model.
If we remain rooted in the point of Love, we remain in a state of harmony, balance and, most importantly, integration. We no longer skip between duality, but are able to see the bigger picture, the interconnectedness and the fact that no events, people or ‘things’ exist in isolation. We are able to embrace the whole with love and acceptance. There’s no clinging to one polarity and desperate aversion of the other. Each are as night and day and the passing of the seasons. Some experiences remain more pleasant than others and some are inevitably painful, but when viewed from this higher vantage point, we can accept and embrace all with love. Every part of the mosaic is necessary and together each seemingly separate part is joined.
The process of triangulation is powerful and transformative. And the symbols of this vital key have been around us for millennia; they are demonstrated in the shapes of the Great Pyramids and even in the figure of the sitting Buddha, whose body forms an almost perfect triangle.
How does this relate to the way we live our lives? I guess it might help us stay rooted in the Tao, living as embodiments of the perfect balance of yin and yang. We can have greater acceptance and awareness that all is part of an overriding perfection. This may not bring everlasting happiness, for happiness tends to be related to specific events happening (this is even the root of the word ‘happiness’) and it is the nature of life that it’s impossible to be happy at all times and in all circumstances. But there will be a peace and a oneness with life; an acceptance of the less pleasant experiences and less attachment to the more satisfying ones. Instead of desperately clinging to the day (and youth, beauty, success, wealth and possessions) we can also embrace and welcome the night and enjoy it for its own unique beauty and gifts (wisdom, stillness, maturity, exquisite emptiness and simplicity and a stripping away of all that is not us). The limited, grasping mind ceases to be the dominant, driving force behind our lives...and a greater intelligence is free to make itself manifest through us.
The way out of duality is the way to freedom and peace. Of course, there’s nothing new in all this. It’s very much in line with what the Buddha taught around two and a half millennia ago (boy, we’re slow to catch on, aren’t we?!). Stop creating duality. Step out of the mind and its universe of concepts, divisions and constituent parts. Get yourself off the treadmill of duality and embrace ALL with love. It’s ALL OK. ALL of it. Even the seemingly ‘not-so-OK’ bits.